As September comes to a close, university students everywhere are firmly settled into their halls or digs and are gradually adapting to their new surroundings. For many of them, moving away from home is the first time in their lives that they take full responsibility for their own diets and prepare their own food. By now, beans on toast and pot noodles might slowly be losing their charm. Here we outline our top do’s and don’ts for any student who wants to up their game – without getting salmonella in the process.
This is an obvious one, but a little antibacterial spray can go a long way. Simply wiping down your worktops before and after cooking, making sure all dishcloths and tea towels are washed regularly, not leaving dirty washing up to fester for days – these little tasks might seem timely and unnecessary at the time, but will make a big difference.
Never wash meat before cooking it. Raw chicken contains campylobacter – a harmful bacteria which can lead to food poisoning. Washing raw chicken will splash bacteria all over your kitchen, which could lead to cross-contamination later on when you prepare other meals.
Keep in mind that you are effectively now sharing a kitchen with complete strangers. If you all share a fridge, technically you’ll never know what your flatmates may have accidentally dropped, smeared or wiped across your food, so make sure you check that everything is properly packaged and covered at all times. James Holden, spokesperson for Go-Assist.co.uk recommends that everyone deep cleans their fridge every four weeks – and suggests that a clean is scheduled the day before you do your food shopping.
Takeaways might seem like a failsafe option – there’s no washing up, they’re budget friendly, not to mention they require minimum effort. However, unrefrigerated leftovers can be a breeding ground for germs. Pathogens love food that has been hanging around overnight and microwaves don’t properly remove all the heat-stable toxins. It’s far better to throw away any leftovers that don’t fit in your fridge than to risk a nasty illness.
Unlike ‘best before’ dates, which are (arguably) subjective as long as the food looks and smells ok, ‘use by' dates are a lot more scientific. Judged by how quickly bugs and bacteria can develop in food, these must always be adhered to regardless of a food products apparent state or appearance.